One of the best skills a home cook can learn is how to make a dish that has some complexity and depth of flavor without spending all day in the kitchen. This adaptation of saltimbocca, a favorite dish from the Lazio region near Rome, fits the bill perfectly. It literally has layers of flavor all rolled into one simple roulade of roasted chicken, salty prosciutto and tangy provolone, punctuated with fresh basil. Traditional saltimbocca, made with veal, prosciutto and sage, is a robust, savory combination that is reminiscent of the chilly Italian autumn. That’s not a bad thing at all, but substituting chicken and basil for the veal and sage brightens the flavors and a little provolone cheese adds a creamy contrasting layer. Butterflying a chicken breast may be new to you, but be brave, work carefully and it’s really very easy. A sauce of mushrooms sautéed in the same pan as the roulades provides yet one more flavor source and makes for a nice presentation on the plate. All this can easily be accomplished in only about half an hour, including the time it takes to pour a nice glass of wine for the cook!
Chicken Roulades with Prosciutto and Basil
Divide a boneless, skinless ¾ pound chicken breast into two halves. Lay each half flat on a chopping block. Using a sharp boning knife, butterfly each by carefully cutting horizontally down the long thicker side of the breast, stopping just short of cutting all the way through, until you can lay the breast open like a book. Pound each piece with a smooth meat mallet to form a thin cutlet. Season with pepper and just a bit of salt (you will be adding some salty prosciutto later, so be light with the salt).
Lay a single slice of prosciutto on top of each cutlet and drizzle with a little olive oil. Add a slice of provolone cheese and about a tablespoon of shredded fresh basil. Roll the chicken into a snug roll and tie with 2 pieces of cooking twine.
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. In a cast iron skillet large enough to hold the roulades, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Brown the roulades on all sides, then transfer to the oven and cook until the roulades are cooked through, about 6-7 minutes (they should just spring back when prodded with a fork). Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the roulades to a cooling rack set over a plate.
Set the pan over medium high heat and add ½ pounds of sliced mushrooms and a pinch of salt. When the mushrooms begin to brown and release their liquids, add a tablespoon of butter and swirl to incorporate.
Remove twine from the roulades and serve topped with the mushrooms. Orzo mixed with wilted spinach is a nice accompaniment.
Serves 2 Wine pairing: To offset the saltiness, pair with a dry, acidic white wine from Italy or a bubbly Prosecco